Playoff-bound Cornell women’s hockey will travel north of the Arctic Circle this weekend to take on No. 2 seed Clarkson (26-3-5, 14-3-5 ECAC) in the ECAC Quarterfinals. The best-of-three series features games on Friday and Saturday at 3 p.m. at Clarkson’s Cheel Arena in Potsdam, New York. The tie breaker would be on Sunday, if necessary.
For the seventh-seeded Red (13-12-4, 9-9-4) — who have been marred by inconsistent results during the regular season — it was consistent and clutch play that got them where they are now. Cornell has won its last four games, including a come-from behind victory at Yale two weekends ago and — most recently — a sudden-death triumph over Harvard this last Saturday.
“We’re happy that we’ve been playing some of our best hockey all season going into this weekend,” said Cornell head coach Doug Derraugh ’91.
“When you look at seasons, they always have peaks,” said senior forward Jess Brown, who scored the game winner against Harvard. “Our peak is coming at the end of the season.”
The Red have played well in recent weeks, but their success has come against unranked opponents. To move on to the semifinals, the Red will have to get past a Golden Knights team that is ranked No. 5 in the country.
“[The Golden Knights] are tall; they use their size to their advantage,” said senior forward Taylor Woods. “They move the puck really well. They have some pretty good individual players that we need to keep an eye on.”
When asked about Clarkson’s strengths, Derraugh replied with “offense, defense, and goaltending.”
“[They are] number two in our league this season and for a reason,” he said.
In order to have a chance at beating Clarkson, Derraugh said the Red will need to play sharp, mistake-free hockey and force the Knights to outperform them.
“We’ll have to be extremely disciplined in our game,” he said. “We’ll need to be executing.”
As the lower seed in the first round of the playoffs, Cornell finds itself in a position it has not been in for the last several years. Because of their low seeding, the Red will play all of their postseason games on the road against favored opponents, even if they make it beyond this round. There are some advantages to being a lower seed; Derraugh pointed out that Cornell has essentially been playing playoff hockey all month.
“It’s certainly a different perspective for us,” Derraugh said. “We’ve been playing playoff-style hockey the last few weeks. We’ve been playing games with pressure.”
Senior captain and defender Cassandra Poudrier admitted the Red preferred outcome is playing in front of home crowds at Lynah Rink, but that the team is happy where it is.
“We’re just excited to have made the playoffs,” she said.
Poudrier was keen to also point out that the Red have been extremely successful in postseason play in the time she has been here (and in several seasons before that).
“Everyone knows Cornell plays well in the playoffs,” she said.
All told, Cornell’s task this weekend is formidable. Clarkson has a realistic shot at a Frozen Four berth and is heavily favored to beat the Red. The Knights have the best goal differential in the ECAC. Cornell has struggled against ranked opponents, and the Knights have home ice.
“The ECAC this year has been … anyone’s game,” Woods said. “We’re Cornell and they’re Clarkson and it’s going to be one hell of a [series].”